For those of us living in the United States, it is our right, our privilege, and our responsibility to use our voice on behalf of the voiceless by advocating for issues with our governmental representatives. Not only can we go to the voting booths every year, but we can also be active between elections by letting our elected officials know exactly what we think about bills that are coming before Congress.
“How do I do that”, you might wonder. Technically, you know it’s possible, and you’ve heard that other people do it, but you’re not entirely sure how to go about it yourself. How do you find out what bills are under consideration? How do you learn what those bills even say? How do you know who to contact and what to say? And who has time to do all that research, anyway?
Fortunately, there are two websites that make it extraordinarily easy–and they’re linked together so they work in tandem.
GovTrack (www.govtrack.us) is a website in which you can track what your particular representatives are doing as well as the status of legislations. Type in your zip code to find out who your legislators are, then click on their names to get more information about how they’ve voted, bills they’ve sponsored, and so forth. Click “Track” and you’ll easily be able to follow that representative’s actions in Congress. If you’re interested in particular bills, resolutions, or topics, go to the Bills and Resolutions part of the website. You’ll be able to see what’s coming before Congress this week, or search by topic or bill number. Click on the titles that come up to get more information, including the full text of the bill itself if you’re ready for that kind of reading! (Try using the advanced search tool and type in the word “Women” to see what legislation turns up.)
Not only is GovTrack useful for research, but it also makes it easy to follow what’s going on. Once you set up your free account, you can click the “Track” button next to a legislator or a legislation and easily follow what’s going on next time you visit the website using the “Lists” page. You’ll see everything you’re tracking listed there. Want to make it even easier? You have the option to have updates sent to your email address on a daily or weekly basis.
So, now that you know what’s going on, how do you voice your opinion to your representatives? When you’re on a page with a listing for a bill on GovTrack, you’ll see a large button (under the big green Track button) that says “Speak Up at PopVox.” It’ll show percentages next to it of how many people have already spoken up through PopVox for or against the bill. Click on that button, set up your free account at PopVox, and use it to send an email to your representatives with your opinion. (It automatically plugs in the appropriate representative’s information.) You can also go directly to PopVox without going through GovTrack, but it’s easier to use the two in tandem.
I’ve used this method a few times to send messages to my congresspeople on issues, and most times I’ve gotten emails back from the congressperson’s office within a day or so, thanking me for my input. It’s nice to know my voice has been heard!
When it’s so easy to do, how can you not get involved? If you’re a U.S. citizen, I encourage you to go immediately to GovTrack and PopVox today to set up your accounts and get involved. (If you’re not a U.S. citizen but live in a democratic country, I suggest you do some research to see if you have similar tools available to you. If not, maybe you can start one!)